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What documents would be useful during estate planning?

Planning for the end of life can be somewhat disturbing to think about; however, not planning can leave loved ones with a mess to work through. Carefully considering and writing down final wishes, determining beneficiaries and deciding how any remaining assets will be divided, can help prevent any issues or fights between relatives. With so much to think about, many Florida residents may wonder where to even begin in their estate planning. A good place to start would be to review some of the legal documents available to express certain wishes.

The first document most people think about when planning for end of life is the last will and testament. This document allows individuals to state very clearly who should take care of any minor children, how assets are to be divided or donated and any specific instructions regarding funeral arrangements. The next document to consider is living trust. This type of document is particularly helpful in high asset cases, and can help avoid expensive probate.

Beneficiary designation is also extremely important. Beneficiaries can be added to any financial account, such as retirement accounts, banks accounts and life insurance policies. Even if beneficiaries are stated differently in a will, those listed directly on the accounts will typically be given precedence over what the will states.

A living will and health care power of attorney will allow a trusted individual to make decisions regarding medical care in the event of incapacitation. These decisions can be based upon the individuals written final wishes regarding their end of life care. For financial matters, a durable power of attorney may be assigned.

These are just a few examples of estate planning documents Florida residents may choose to consider when putting their affairs in order. As life changes, reviewing and updating these, and other documents, to reflect those changes may be necessary. Estate planning isn't always easy to discuss, but planning for the future will prove to be beneficial in the end and will be greatly appreciated by surviving family members.

Source: MSN Money, "Estate-planning documents you need right now", , April 18, 2014

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